The college football coaching carousel continued to spin Wednesday — only this time, it spun right into Division II Durango.
Fort Lewis College hired John L. Smith as its coach, the school said. Smith last season coached Arkansas as the Razorbacks' year-long interim boss in the wake of Bobby Petrino's firing. Arkansas went 4-8 and declined to keep Smith on.
Instead, he'll move to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference with the task of boosting Fort Lewis. The Skyhawks went 0-10 last season. Former coach Cesar Rivas-Sandoval resigned after a 6-25 stint over three years.
"Fort Lewis is making a commitment to football," Skyhawks athletic director Gary Hunter said in a release.
"We are extremely fortunate to have a coach with the tremendous background and experience that John L. brings."
Smith also has been head coach at Michigan State (2003-06) and Louisville (1998-2002), among others.
It's not common for a head coach at an FBS school to move directly to Division II. But Smith has past relationships with Fort Lewis president Dene Thomas and Hunter. Both were at Idaho when Smith was head coach there from 1989-94.
"I know the two of them are going to do everything possible to make FLC football as good as we can make it," Smith told KFSM news in Arkansas.
Smith at Idaho also coached with Ed Rifilato, the current defensive coordinator at Fort Lewis. Rifilato will run the program until Smith arrives March 1, the school said.
Smith has a career 136-94 record (.591 winning percentage) as a a head coach over 19 seasons. He also coached at Utah State. Smith took a job at Weber State in 2011 and ran the program during the offseason, but he never coached a game there after Arkansas hired him before the 2012 season.
The Skyhawks have had just one coach with a winning career record at the school (including Gary Barnett, who went 8-11-1 from 1982-83). Bill Cooke went 20-16-1 there from 1984-87.
In a strange season at Arkansas, after Smith replaced Petrino amid a scandal, it was reported that Smith had even bigger issues than a faltering football team.
The Associated Press reported that Smith had accumulated $25.7 millioin in debt and had a date in U.S. Bankruptcy court to deal with creditors. Records showed that Smith had invested heavily in real estate before land values tanked.
Smith is the uncle of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.
Nick Groke: 303-954-1015, ngroke@denverpost.com or twitter.com/nickgroke